Today, 20 April 2010, marks the 100th anniversary of Addie Joss’ second and final no-hitter. He threw it for Cleveland against Chicago and raised his record to 2-0 for the season. Later in the year he began suffering health problems, and sat out much of the season. Within a year of his last no-hitter, he was dead. It seems fitting to take today to remember him.
He spent his entire career in Cleveland, which in the Deadball Era more or less guaranteed obscurity. The team didn’t do particularly well except occasionally, finishing as high as second in 1908. On his own team Joss was frequently overshadowed by his manager, Napoleon LaJoie. He was, however, the finest pitcher on the team.
His rookie year was 1902. In his first game, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, gave up one single, and won the game 3-0. In 1904 he led the American League in ERA, in 1905 he saw 20 wins and repeated the 20 wins in 1906 and 1907, tying for the league lead in wins in ’07.
Then came 1908. The year is mostly famous for the National League pennant race that included the “Merkle Game” and the replay of it. But the American League had a heck of a pennant race too. Detroit won by a half game. Cleveland and Joss finished second. Joss had 24 wins, a league leading ERA of 1.16, nine shutouts, and on 2 October threw a perfect game against Chicago (they finished third), besting 40 game winner Ed Walsh (who only gave up four hits and struck out 15 in the game). For the season Joss struck out 130. He was a control specialist, not a fireballer. He pitched in 42 games, starting 35. He gave up 42 earned runs and was on the mound for 35 unearned runs (1.2 earned runs for each unearned run). He walked only 30, meaning he gave up 1.4 runs for every walk (which is terrific). I love the unearned run stat. The fielding behind him was awful and he didn’t contribute to it by adding extra baserunners via the base on balls. For 42 earned runs (one per game) and 35 unearned runs he ended up with a 24-11 record. Tell me unearned runs don’t matter.
He fell back in 1909. Apparently his illness was beginning to affect him. His ERA jumped to 1.70 (from 1.16 that’s a jump), he went 14-13, and ceded the Cleveland ace role to newly acquired Cy Young (OK, so almost nobody else is the ace if Young is around). He got back in 1910 but only made it into 13 games.
One of those games was 100 years ago today. Again he faced Chicago. In the second inning Fred Parent, playing short for the White Stockings, hit a roller to Cleveland third baseman Bill Bradley. Bradley juggled the ball, and Parent was safe at first. The official scorer called it a hit. Sometime during the game, the scorer changed his mind and recorded the play as an error on Bradley. I’ve been unable to determine exactly when that occurred. If early, then it may have had no effect on the game, but if the scorer changed it in say the seventh inning or so, then he may have been purposefully aiding Joss in getting a no-hitter. Frankly, I just don’t know. I do know that Joss walked only two men and recorded 10 assists from the mound during the game. At the end of the day the score stood 1-0 Cleveland over Chicago and Joss had his second no-hitter. I looked it up and barring failing eyes that are worse than I think (and they may be) Joss is the only person to throw two no hitters against the same team and have identical scores (1-0 vs. Chicago).
Joss had to sit out most of the season. He tried to come back in 1911 but collapsed on the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He died of tubercular meningitis on 14 April 1911, two days after opening day. His funeral was on the 17th and the Cleveland team, against the initial wishes of league president Ban Johnson, postponed their game to attend. Old-time player turned evangelist Billy Sunday preached the funeral. On 24 July an exhibition game between Cleveland and a team of American League All-Stars was held. The stars won 5-3, but the gate went to Joss’ family. It totalled $12, 914, a large sum for the era.
Joss only played nine years, making him ineligible for the Hall of Fame. In 1978, the Veteran’s Committee waived the rule and elected him to the Hall. A handful of writers and baseball stat geeks said it was a mistake. They were wrong.
Next: Back to the 1910 teams with the Browns